Offseason Overview – San Francisco 49ers
Next up on the NFC West offseason overview we will take on the San Francisco 49ers. With a new head coach and an unsuccessful attempt to trade their former starting quarterback the 49ers have more questions than answers entering the 2016 season.
The San Francisco 49ers offseason started out with a bang when head coach Jim Tomsula was let go after only one season on the job and was eventually replaced with Chip Kelly who wore out his welcome as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Entering the offseason with an estimated $60 million in cap room and an access of draft picks there were a lot of “experts” predicting the 49ers roster to be retooled during the offseason.
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The biggest change offensively for the San Francisco 49ers is the addition of Chip Kelly as head coach. Coach Kelly prefers to play a fast style of offense that is aimed at keeping defenses off balance and tiring them out in the later stages of the game. This is a much different style than the 49ers have employed in recent seasons.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick started off the offseason by requesting a trade as a result of being benched halfway through the 2015 season. Kaepernick followed that up with offseason surgeries to his thumb and knee that have kept him busy rehabbing. Former Jaguar Blaine Gabbert finished the season at quarterback for the 49ers and going into the 2016 season it appears there will be a quarterback position battle for the right to stand behind center in week one of the 2016 NFL season.
The 49ers lost guard Alex Boone in free agency but signed former Jaguar Zane Beadles to replace him. The 49ers also traded back into the first round to select Stanford guard Joshua Garnett with the 28th overall pick. Other offensive line additions include two rookie tackles drafted in the fifth round: John Theus (Georgia) and Fahn Cooper (Mississippi).
The sixth round saw the 49ers draft offensive depth at the quarterback position in Jeff Driskel (Louisana Tech), at the running back position in Kelvin Taylor (Florida), and at the receiver position in Aaron Burbridge (Michigan State). Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin remains unsigned leaving some to question the depth of the 49ers receiving core.
The 49ers offense this year will likely look a lot different in terms of style however in terms of personnel not much has really changed. Losing Alex Boone in free agency hurts but rookie Josh Garnett looks like a mauler who should fill in nicely. The Seahawks can expect heavy doses of a healthy Carlos Hyde at running back but with a lack of other playmakers outside of Hyde and receiver Torrey Smith and an unsettled quarterback situation the 49ers looked poised to rely heavily on their defensive during the 2016 season.
With the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft the 49ers selected defensive end DeForest Buckner out of Oregon. Buckner will look to fill the defensive end spot vacated by Justin Smith last offseason. The 49ers resigned underrated nose tackle Ian Williams to a long term contract but signed no notable free agents on the defensive side of the ball.
In the NFL draft the 49ers selected three cornerbacks to help strengthen the league’s 27th ranked pass defense: Will Redmond (Mississippi State) / Round 3, Rashard Robinson (LSU) / Round 3, and Prince Charles Iworah (Western Kentucky) / Round 7. The 49ers also draft defensive end Ronald Blair (Appalachian State) in the fifth round as defensive line depth.
The 49ers defense was in the middle of the pack averaging 24.2 point per game during the 2015 season. Resigning Ian Williams and drafting DeForest Buckner to pair with 2015 first round pick Arik Armstead and DT mainstay Glenn Dorsey should give the 49ers a formidable defensive line. Outside of NaVorro Bowman there are questions at linebacker and the 49er secondary is young but unproven.
The strength of the 49ers defense is their defensive line which also coincides with one of the Seahawks biggest question marks, their offensive line. With minimal personnel changes and a new coach at the helm the 49ers have a lot of question marks heading into the 2016 season. Both games between the Seahawks and the 49ers are shaping up to be low scoring affairs with the Seahawks having the edge in talent and experience.